Food And Drinks

Detroit’s Magnet Closes as Partners Dissolve Restaurant Group

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The restaurant group behind the Detroit restaurants Takoi and Magnet has disbanded. Chef Brad Greenhill and developer Philip Kafka have ended their partnership under the Top Young Hospitality umbrella, partly due to the economic pressures of the pandemic, Greenhill said in a statement emailed. Greenhill becomes the sole owner of the Northern Thai-influenced Corktown restaurant Takoi while Philip Kafka is keeping the Magnet room closed indefinitely while determining an appropriate use for the space.

Many restaurants struggled to hold their booths during the pandemic, but those primarily serving dine-in customers faced the biggest challenges with the three-month partial home ordering in Michigan and limiting indoor seating during the Pandemic partially reopened. Chef Greenhill’s management team had tried to transform Takoi and Magnet into a carryout model with meal sets, beer, wine and, for several weeks, cocktails to take away. Less than a year old in an area of ​​Detroit with less pedestrian traffic and density than Corktown, Magnet faced an uphill battle. At the end of July, the wood-burning, Middle Eastern-influenced restaurant closed its pick-up service to “recalibrate and realign” according to a message on the website. At the same time, news spread that Magnet was unlikely to open again.

Magnet had a sunken beam and lots of blue tiles. Gerard + Belevender

In addition to the closure of Magnet and Greenhill’s control of Takoi, Top Young Hospitality’s pantry prep kitchen area, the Pantry, was leased to chefs Jennifer Jackson and Justin Tootla. Jackson will open an all-day, southern-style cafe. Kafka owns a large part of the property around the magnet building.

During their partnership, Greenhill and Kafka developed restaurants that became known for both their food and award-winning designs – and sometimes for controversy. Takoi started out as a food truck and later turned into an award-winning restaurant. The same year it was named a semi-finalist for a James Beard Award, the Michigan Avenue building was destroyed by fire. Both Takoi – Pre-Fire and Post-Fire – and Magnet were designed by the architects Undecorated, which equipped relatively no-frills industrial garages in Detroit with science fiction interiors.

After the fire in Takoi, the restaurant also faced a settlement of its previous name – a disguise from Thai transgender people – that made some people in the community uncomfortable. Greenhill and his partners stated that they were unaware of the negative connotations and eventually agreed to change the name to Takoi.

One of the founding partners left the group around the same time when Takoi reopened and Top Young Hospitality was founded with new CEO Christina Ponsaran and drinks director Drew Pompa. Top Young Hospitality opened Magnet with ambitious goals to avoid tipping, but later switched to a higher hourly wage by mostly employed staff.

Rainbow-lit plastic wall panels frame the window in Takoi's kitchen.

Takoi’s dining room will reopen at half capacity on Wednesday September 16. Michelle and Chris Gerard

Greenhill announced to the Detroit Free Press that Pompa and Executive Chef Tony Redman will continue to work with him at Takoi. Ponsaran advises both Magnet and Takoi while figuring out her next move. Takoi currently works under a tip pool system with a starting wage of $ 9.65 per hour.

Greenhill wrote in a statement to Eater that he no longer believes in restaurant groups as role models. “Restaurants should be restaurants, not businesses,” he said. The chef plans to continue to offer seating, take-away and delivery on the terrace at Takoi and to open the restaurant from Wednesday, September 16, with a capacity of 50 percent for dining service. Customers with gift vouchers for Magnet can redeem them at Takoi.

Update: This story has been updated with Philip Kafka’s full name. The article was originally published on August 31, 2020.

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Dusty Kennedy